The Vodafone Warriors have secured utility David Fusitu’a on a three-year contract extension as well as signing promising young players Isaiah Papalii and Junior Pauga on new deals.
Selected in the Kiwis this week, Fusitu’a – 22 on October 16 – has just completed the most intensive season of his career, appearing in each one of the Vodafone Warriors’ last 18 matches after starting the campaign with five games for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side.
The Marist Saints junior finished the year with 11 tries – including four against Newcastle at Hunter Stadium in June – to lift his career tally to 20 tries in 33 first-grade matches.
His outstanding form – averaging 136 metres with 14 line breaks – culminated in him being included as one of five newcomers in the Kiwi squad for the October 15 Test against the Kangaroos in Perth and the following Four Nations competition in England.
Another Kelston Boys’ High School product, Fusitu’a has been in the Vodafone Warriors’ system for several years, coming into the club’s NYC side as a 17-year-old in 2012 and going on to score 21 tries in 37 under-20 appearances across three seasons. During this time, he made his NRL debut in 2014 and was also used in the New South Wales Cup side.
“David’s a special talent and he showed that consistently throughout the 2016 season,” said new Vodafone Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro.
“It was impressive seeing how well he performed every game while being moved between the wing, the centres and fullback.
“He richly deserved his selection in the Kiwis the way he played this year and he’s going to be an integral player in our group in the coming years.”
After being affected by a range of injuries in previous seasons, Fusitu’a said he was thrilled he was able string together a run of games.
“My goal this year was to stay on the field,” he said.
“I’ve been hampered by a few injuries over the last few years so it was good to be able to play most of the games this season. It has been a huge tick for me in terms of my personal development.
“Nothing was too new to me (playing various positions). I played a bit of everything coming up through the grades. It’s a much higher level doing it in the NRL but the boys helped me through it this year.”
While Fusitu’a has been signed to the end of the 2019 NRL season, the Vodafone Warriors have also secured Vodafone Junior Warriors Papalii for three years and Pauga for two years.
Mount Albert Grammar School pupil Papalii, a Te Atatu Roosters junior, has fashioned an impressive record in both rugby league and rugby union as well as being a powerlifting champion.
He was one of a host of 17-year-olds who made their NYC debuts for the Vodafone Junior Warriors this year. Selected for the Junior Kiwis in May, he played 11 NYC matches in a year when he was unavailable for much of the season due to First XV rugby union commitments with the champion Mount Albert Grammar side. MAGS won the Auckland championship and then took out the New Zealand Secondary Schools title being Hastings Boys’ High School 14-13 in the final. Used at prop by the Vodafone Junior Warriors, flanker Papalii scored Mount Albert Grammar’s only try of the final and was named the New Zealand First XV Player of the Year.
In his 11 NYC games he scored six tries while averaging 13.27 runs, 134 metres and 30.54 tackles.
Pauga (20) scored eight tries in 23 appearances in his second and last NYC season. A standout with the ball, he topped 3300 metres – an average of 146 metres a game – including 11 line breaks and an exceptional 128 tackle breaks, by far the most of any player in the side. He also debuted for club’s Intrust Super Premiership side this year.